Overcoming Our Evil:Human Nature and Spiritual Exercises in Xunzi and Augustine

Overcoming Our Evil:Human Nature and Spiritual Exercises in Xunzi and Augustine
: New
Can people ever really change? Do they ever become more ethical? How does that happen? These are the questions that ethicist Aaron Stalnaker explores in this seminal study in comparative religious ethics. Examining two vastly different and vastly influential thinkers from antiquity--the Christian theologian Augustine and the Confucian philosopher Xunzi--Stalnaker examines how these two intellectual giants understood "fallen" human nature--and how they propose that individuals, through highly disciplined spiritual exercises, can become better human beings. What are these "spiritual exercises"? For Augustine, prayer and scriptural study; for Xunzi, textual study, ritual, and musical performance. Stalnaker meticulously constructs vivid portraits of both thinkers, demonstrating where they connect and where they diverge, making the case that both have been misunderstood and misinterpreted. But this is not simply a study of dusty historical figures speaking to ancient worlds far different than ours. In undertaking his analysis Stalnaker is a voice of cool reason in the heated debates over religious and cultural pluralism. His work is an intellectually rigorous ethic of "global neighborliness," that is, an attempt to understand and appreciate seemingly conflictual worldviews, to bring traditions into respectful dialogue, to find points of agreement and disagreement, to avert the Scylla of parochialism ("I'm right and you're wrong") and the Charybdis of theological relativism ("Anything goes").
Publication Date: 
February 10, 2009